Ten Reasons Jon Snow is the Ultimate Emergency Manager

Posted with permission from HBO Media

by Mitch Stripling


Ten Reasons Jon Snow is the Ultimate Emergency Manager

(Warning: Minor spoilers for Game of Thrones below. )

It’s true that none of us in the crisis or disaster areas has a pet dire wolf and we don’t wield a massive sword called Longclaw (or most of us don’t). Still, I don’t think we’re that far off in considering Jon Snow the ultimate emergency manager. Here’s why:

(Sidenote: Clearly, we’re talking about Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow and not epidemiological legend John Snow, even though (little-known fact) John with an ‘H’ ALSO had a pet dire wolf – his was named Soho and spent most of its time guarding water pumps.)

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He keeps his eyes on the most critical threats.
All around Jon, people stay distracted by their selfish interests, but Jon stays focused on the major death just waiting to swoop down. As emergency managers (EMs), we should do nothing less even as budget cuts, infighting, and shiny new toys keep popping up like Cersei’s latest plot.

2. He doesn’t have much authority, but he’s a leader.

Jon wasn’t born with stature or a kingdom – and even at his most powerful, he relies on force of will and inspiration to get the job done, not rank. Just like that, we EMs don’t control many resources – but when the org chart of government breaks, we need to be ready step in, with humility and competence. Not because we have to be in charge, but because we need to get the job done.

3. He knows nothing, Jon Snow!

Jon is consistently naive and hopeful about humanity and its ability to get along and to do good. That’s the humanism EMs need in order to understand that in a crisis, people do come together, in waves, to stand with survivors. We have to trust that community and work with it, regardless of who tells us otherwise.

4. He focuses relentlessly on preparedness.

Jon Snow does not let up. If it isn’t wall repair, it’s training; if it isn’t building partnerships, it’s mining dragon glass. He never stops – and neither should we, whether it’s building community resilience, increasing response capacity or surging our supply lines.

5. He isn’t afraid to look at the vulnerability of the systems (or the people) around him.

Let’s face it: In Westeros, people just keep dying. But the fact is that people die here, too – and they don’t die equally. People that are more vulnerable pre-disaster, including those who face discrimination because of race or gender, are more likely to be hurt post-disaster. And these basic systems we rely on (like power or water) are much more fragile than we like to think, just like a certain Wall. Expect things to fail, emergency manager, and you will be more ready when they do.

6. He makes hard, fast choices when the pressure is on.

Once a crisis starts, Jon’s personality changes. He snaps to attention and starts making decision after decision, based on his judgment and the skills of his team. He improvises. EMs need to learn that lesson – disasters move too fast not to take risks. We need to put ourselves out there, making the hard choices we know are right. That’s crisis leadership.

Of course, nothing is ever sunshine and roses in Westeros, so Jon has these emergency manager issues, too:

7. Jon has problems convincing people the threat is real.

How many times has he told the freaking story about the White Walkers, already? And these Southern dandies just will not pull their heads out of the sand to listen. Honestly. Remind you of anything, emergency manager? Any briefings you’ve done lately? Jon keeps looking for better ways to make people believe him; we should do the same. Storytelling is the critical infrastructure of preparedness.

8. He doesn’t take into account political realities.

At some point, staring down certain death at the Battle of the Bastards, maybe Jon Snow realized that he miscalculated the human race with his laser focus on abstract threats. Whoops. Luckily, he got bailed out – we may not be so lucky. EMs should always remember that every decision is political and that should look for win-wins everywhere we can, not draw hard lines just for the sake of feeling right.

9. He gets blamed for things outside his control.

Taking a knife to the heart is never easy, even if you brood as well as Jon Snow. Just like his men turned on Jon, EMs often get attacked. Maybe not with knives but, look, we’re put suddenly in positions of leadership at moments of great crisis. Who’s a better scapegoat? That’s why HOW we lead is so important, and part of that is honestly supporting all of our partners, whatever happens.

That leads to number ten, the most important lesson of all:

10. Jon Snow believes, above everything, that we need to stand together to survive.

No matter what happens – or what he’s offered (money, power, sex (except for maybe that one time)) – Jon will never put his own pride or personal gain in front of the mission. He focuses with his whole being on creating a big tent team. Partner by partner, he brings folks together, through their differences, to unite for the common good. Dude came back from the dead and immediately moved into coalition building. When boom happens, EMs will (less face it) need every aspect of our communities regardless of race, gender, class, or political allegiance. When a dirty bomb explodes or a great wall of water swoops in, our differences become sources of power, if we can mine them. Some of us have books, some boats, some have tight-knit families – and some of us have dragons. If EMs can build connections across these differences without pretending they don’t exist, we might just have a prayer when our own White Walkers arrive.


Mitch Stripling
Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Agency Preparedness & Response at New York City Health,  and one of the members of the Dukes of Hazard Podcast team.




About Todd De Voe 72 Articles
Involved in Emergency Response, Emergency Management, Education and Volunteer Management for over 25 years.Served as a Corpsman assigned to the Fleet Marine Force of the United States Navy. I now teach Emergency Management at Coastline Community College, I am also the Host of EM Weekly.

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